Intel cofounder Gordon E. Moore was the first to note a peculiar trend, namely that the number of components in integrated circuits had doubled every year from the 1958 invention of the integrated circuit until 1965. In Moore’s own words:

The complexity for minimum component costs has increased at a rate of roughly a factor of two per year.…Certainly over the short term this rate can be expected to continue, if not to increase. Over the longer term, the rate of increase is a bit more uncertain, although there is no reason to believe it will not remain nearly constant for at least 10 years. That means by 1975, the number of components per integrated circuit for minimum cost will be 65,000. I believe that such a large circuit can be built on a single wafer. (Gordon E. Moore, “Cramming More Components onto Integrated Circuits,” Electronics magazine, 1965)

 In 1970 Caltech professor, VLSI pioneer, and entrepreneur Carver Mead coined the term “Moore’s law,” referring to a statement made by Gordon E. Moore, and the phrase caught on within the scientific community.

In 1975 Moore revised his prediction regarding the number of components in integrated circuits doubling every year to doubling every two years. Intel executive David House noted that Moore’s latest prediction would cause computer performance to double every eighteen months, due to the combination of not only more transistors but also the transistors themselves becoming faster.

From the above discussion, it is obvious that Moore’s law has been stated a number of ways and has changed over time. In the strict sense, it is not a physical law but more of an observation and guideline for planning. In fact many semiconductor companies use Moore’s law to plan their long-term product offerings. There is a deeply held belief in the semiconductor industry that adhering to Moore’s law is required to remain competitive. In this sense it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. For our purposes in understanding AI, let us address the following question.

What Is Moore’s law?

As it applies to AI, we will define Moore’s law as follows: The data density of an integrated circuit and the associated computer performance will cost-effectively double every eighteen months. If we consider eighteen months to represent a technology generation, this means every eighteen months we receive double the data density and associated computer performance at approximately the same cost as the previous generation. Most experts, including Moore, expect Moore’s law to hold for at least another two decades, but this is debatable, as I discuss later in the chapter. Below is a graphical depiction (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons) of Moore’s law, illustrating transistor counts for integrated circuits plotted against their dates of introduction (1971–2011).

As previously mentioned, Moore’s law is not a physical law of science. Rather it may be considered a trend or a general rule. This begs the following question. How Long Will Moore’s Law Hold? We will address this and other questions in part 2 of this post.

Source: The Artificial Intelligence Revolution (2014), Louis A. Del Monte